A 16-year-old boy stabbed a 16-year-old girl to death in the hallway of a Connecticut high school Friday morning, hours before the junior class was set to have their prom.
Milford Police Chief Keith Mello said the boy attacked the girl, Maren Sanchez, near a stairwell at Jonathan Law High School at about 7:15 a.m. and a school staff member witnessed part of the attack.
Emergency responders arrived and took the girl to the hospital, where she died about half an hour later.
"Maren should be celebrating at her prom this evening ... instead we are mourning her death," a cousin, Edward Kobac, said in a statement he read aloud to reporters.
Police said the girl suffered numerous cuts to her chest and face, and the most severe injuries appeared to be to her neck. A knife was recovered at the scene.
Asked about rumors that the assault was related to a prom invitation, Mello said it was too soon to say what the motive was and could not describe their relationship.
The boy is under arrest.
The school said Sanchez was a junior who was loved and respected by her peers.
Sanchez was a vibrant member of the school, an athlete and honor student, and "just a wonderful young woman," said Elizabeth Feser, Milford School Superintendent.
Kobac, her cousin, said she was "a bright light full of hopes and dreams with her future at her fingertips."
Prom was postponed, and friends instead gathered in their prom attire at a beach near their school in Sanchez's honor, releasing balloons into the sky. They took a photo holding up the dress Sanchez planned to wear to the prom.
Sarah Golden, a 14-year-old freshman, said she was sitting in the main lobby with friends Friday morning when she was startled by several security guards running down the hall. Then she heard a voice on a walkie-talkie say that someone had been strangled. She was shocked when she learned about the stabbing.
"I was trying not to freak out because it was really scary," Sarah said. "I just don't believe that something like that happened at my school. It's something that seems so unreal."
Golden's sister, Rebecca, a 17-year-old senior at the school, said she saw the victim lying on the floor surrounded by teachers, some of whom were crying. She said she didn't know what was going on at the time, and teachers directed her away from the victim.
Milford Mayor Benjamin Blake said in a statement that "our hearts go out to the family of Maren Sanchez" and said counselors would be available at the school over the weekend.